Kelly Carlisle is the founder and executive director of Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project, a veteran of the United States Navy, and an Alameda County Master Gardener Trainee. A native of East Oakland, California, she is committed to creating positive change in her childhood city. We talked with Kelly about her organization and how she inspires and engages youth in the garden.
Tell us about your work with Acta Non Verba. What is your approach to gardening?
Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project (ANV) elevates life in the inner-city by challenging oppressive dynamics and environments through urban farming. Founded and led mainly by women of color from the surrounding neighborhood and larger community, ANV creates a safe and creative outdoor space for children, youth, and families in East Oakland, CA. Within this severely economically depressed neighborhood in the nation’s second most dangerous city, ANV engages and deepens their understanding of nutrition, food production, and healthy living as well as strengthens their ties to the community.
We use biointensive practices to maximize the space we have (1/4 acre).
When did you first start to garden? What did you grow?
I started gardening in 2008 as an activity to do with my daughter. First we grew lemons and apples. When I became more savvy, I started growing lettuce, tomatoes, cherries, grapes, peaches, nectarines, and herbs.
Who or what inspires you in the garden?
The garden itself and its persistence to live inspires me. I love how each seed knows what it’s supposed to be and do. My role as a protector and nurturer is to make sure each seed has it’s best chance to produce and live the best life.
What do you love to grow? What’s your favorite plant at the moment?
I love to grow vegetables. It’s a toss up between squash and tomatoes. I love the look and texture of squash blossoms and tomatoes are prolific.
What books and/or blogs are you reading right now?
I’m reading The Waste Lands by Stephen King the blog “Nonprofit with Balls.”
We know you’re an avid gardener and an Alameda County Master Gardener Trainee, but what was your biggest gardening fail?
Before ANV had farm staff, I did all the gardening and managed the organization. Once, I forgot to water for a few days during summer. I came back to the farm to see completely flattened and wilted lettuce. Luckily, they sprang back once I watered them!
What are your top five tips for inspiring and engaging youth in the garden?
Give them individual responsibilities, feed them from the garden, talk to them about the life cycles of each plants, make the connection between how they grow and the plants grow, make real world connections to the garden and their lives.
Have you heard of any other organizations that challenging oppressive dynamics and environments through urban farming? Let us know in the comments below.
Kelly D. Carlisle, Founder and Executive Director of Acta Non Verba, is a veteran of the United States Navy and has been the recipient of many awards, including the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. She is an avid gardener and is an Alameda County Master Gardener Trainee. She is an active member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. She has worked with and mentored pre-teen and teenage youth since the age of 14. A native of East Oakland, California, she is committed to creating positive change in her childhood city. Most recently, Kelly’s work has been honored at the White House by President Barack Obama.
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